Your are what your search results return and so are your kids

You are what your search results return.

We are living in an age where Life is an Open Book Test. Like the open book test in school where you just needed to know where to look to find an answer, today everything we need or might want to know is presumed to be a Search Engine Query away.

We no longer “know what we know”. We have to confirm everything with a search. If we are publishing , we confirm it with a hyperlink to our search results. Ask someone about a person you just met ? Sure, but then make sure to do a search on them as well.

Im not telling you anything new, but what I am telling you is that the way it is today is nothing like what it will be for kids being born now.

Our past, and really our profile was defined by the contents of shoeboxes and milkcrates. The places where we kept old papers, pictures, grades, notes we passed to the girl we had a crush on.

Over the last few years, its evolved to the equivalent digital placeholder. Its on Flickr, photobucket, Myspace, Facebook, wherever we host and store all the digital pictures, videos,blog entries , comments and discussions we participate in that we share publicly. Or its in an email database that is hosted or backedup online that we may or may not choose to make public.. And these are just the elements we self maintain.

Then there are the elements the rest of the world maintains about us. Put aside privacy issues. There is plenty out there that is published for us, or about any of us. It may be the picture in the local newspaper or neighborhood website of your 3rd grade recital, the box score of your little league baseball game. What groups you were in at your high school, along with all the pictures that didnt make the yearbook. The paper you did in college. The company website with the pictures of the training class you took.

Our lives are being documented , cataloged and indexed whether we like it or not. But since its a relatively new phenomena, there really isnt much history out there . Our pasts, even of high school kids has far more offline and out of the reach of search engine spiders, than online

But for kids being born now, like my daughters, both under the age of 4, it will be completely different.
As their dad, I will be building their digital profile through the pictures and videos I share as a proud parent (as i write, my oldest is at her dance class with camcorder in action recording her every move). I will go online to get anything and everything I need to keep me up to date on her schoolwork and activities and everything and anything she does outside our home. What I cant find online, if its associated with her activities, like pictures or videos parents of her friends took, I will encourage them to share them online, as Im sure they will do with me.

Taking pictures and video is so cheap and easy today that its not inconceivable we could recreate full days and weeks through media.

By the time she starts dating, I wont need to greet her dates at the door with a shotgun, I will have a digital history of the poor kid and know pretty much everythng about him, before I meet him.

We are beginning a generation where much of everything they do will be recorded, monitored and maintained and more importantly, shared online. Every generation of parents has used the tools they can afford to be our kids biographers till they leave home. This generation will have the fortune or misfortune of those tools having an ever declining cost to with no cost per capture (no developing pictures or even having to buy tape), and as it stands today, little or no cost to share all those digital hours online.

As parents we wont pay attention or even attempt to understand the lifelong consequences of our actions. The pull of sharing dance class and report cards and recital videos with family and friends will be just too strong.

Plus of course the kids themselves will blaze their own digital media paths as different from their parents as possible. But it will be shared digitally and online.

Which brings me to the point of this post
.
Hopefully, writing all this out will remind me that everything digital that I share online will become an entry in my kids digital profile that will always be just a search away and stay with them forever. Nothing will be thankfully lost in the garage anymore.

18 thoughts on “Your are what your search results return and so are your kids

  1. On the one hand, a trend towards very unique names (especially combinations of first & last names) – anyone with a unique name has a much higher chance of being accurately found in the new age of search – and of thus starting out with an advantage (this holds true of businesses as well – there is a taqueria here in San Francisco I was told was very good – however the name of it is \”Taqueria San Francisco\” – next to impossible to find via searches…

    Comment by sohbet -

  2. I for once 100% agree with you hands down.
    Privay is dead. Talking on aim is a preferred mode of communication for many people, and even that is being out moded by text messages

    Comment by trturkey -

  3. I for once 100% agree with you hands down.
    Privay is dead. Talking on aim is a preferred mode of communication for many people, and even that is being out moded by text messages

    Comment by meyabilisim -

  4. As parents we wont pay attention or even attempt to understand the lifelong consequences of our actions. The pull of sharing dance class and report cards and recital videos with family and friends will be just too strong.

    I agree that +1 really true

    Comment by kumpas -

  5. Mark,

    An interesting side effect of what you describe is I would predict two related trends around baby names.

    On the one hand, a trend towards very unique names (especially combinations of first & last names) – anyone with a unique name has a much higher chance of being accurately found in the new age of search – and of thus starting out with an advantage (this holds true of businesses as well – there is a taqueria here in San Francisco I was told was very good – however the name of it is \”Taqueria San Francisco\” – next to impossible to find via searches…

    On the other hand a countertrend – towards highly common name combinations – for privacy through not obscurity but rather through sameness. Anyone named \”John Smith\” \”June Kim\” etc will likely blend into a sea of 1000\’s of people online with the same names – disambiguating just who that news article or flickr photo is a photo of will be challenging – and likely next to impossible.

    I run into a specialized aspect of this almost every day. I am male. My name, Shannon, is one that both men and women (at least here in the US, in other countries it is more likely male) can have. Every day someone emails, calls, or mails me assuming I\’m female (I can tell often by their hesitation on the phone when I identify myself).

    Shannon

    Comment by Shannon Clark -

  6. Can you Say Truman Show? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truman_Show

    Comment by GDR -

  7. I think in 100 years there will be a lack of interest in the majority of the electronic information available today. For example, do we really care what a 1907 miner thought about his new sledgehammer? Most people today blog about stuff like that and it will be lost in the shuffle. The majority of stuff that was lost (or never recorded) in 1907 is no loss any more than losing the recordings of useless information today would be.

    The internet is the largest collection of inaccurate and useless information the world has ever seen.

    I\’m feeling cynical today.

    Comment by JD -

  8. Think about how hard it is for historians and archaelogists to piece together what life was like 1,000 years ago. They are dealing with a paucity of information and have to construct narratives based on the little information that they have.

    Comment by Gzel Szler -

  9. I for once 100% agree with you hands down.
    Privay is dead. Talking on aim is a preferred mode of communication for many people, and even that is being out moded by text messages

    Comment by superdave -

  10. I agree with your concept, however we have to be very carefull about security and protecting the beautiful documented life histories of our future genrations. We should be concerned about privacy and safety.

    just my .02

    bobby

    Comment by bobby -

  11. Think about how hard it is for historians and archaelogists to piece together what life was like 1,000 years ago. They are dealing with a paucity of information and have to construct narratives based on the little information that they have.

    The opposite will be the case in just 100 years. In 2107, the challenge for historians will be how to form a narrative out of the overwhelming amount of data that is available about life in 2007. And the amount of data is only accelerating. How will they sift through all the junk? That is unless the giant EMP burst wipes all the data out on Earth and we revert to a Mad Max existence.

    Comment by RJ Peters -

  12. I agree with everything you wrote, with the exception that all of the information will be maintained and accessed. I think that unless some very good librarian habits are adopted by our generation and then passed on to our children, the result will be kids that have to go to Ancestry.com or Ellisisland.org to find out about their great granparents.
    There is conceivably more information being stored in the history of mankind, even though the printing press was invented centuries ago, people are reading less than they have in many generations. Despite the appeal of the screen, and despite the appeal of a library or a book store, centuries of information and history has been, for the most part, ignored.
    But there will be a core group, as we define them today as intellectuals, who will read, conduct research, and involve themselves in their communities by being constantly engaged in the manner you have described yourself.

    Comment by Daniel Hexter -

  13. At least then I know it\’s in my garage, or basement, somewhere. I have this sci-fi fear that one day, a big spaceship or a solar flare will demagnetize or delete every bit of digital media we have stored up. Or, if that\’s not believable, then I think that such an event might scramble about half of all digital content, to the point that what is left is as understandable as a conversation at the Tower of Babel. Papers can burn, memories can fade, so too, digital media can be lost, or become unreadable.

    Comment by Thomason -

  14. I\’m a Realtor here in Naples, Florida so my website is just my listings. I\’ve been working hard to get it higher up in Google and constantly check my \”search terms\” that brought people to my site. Much to my surprise, the highest search term is \”Chris Farrugia.\” I\’m always shocked that so many people are typing in my name and getting to my site that way. Could it be ex-girlfriends? Friends trying to find my site? No idea, but it is a bit creepy.

    Comment by Chris Farrugia -

  15. Of course, the other side effect of this is that presidential elections will be quite a bit funnier in thirty years. No longer will the news media be forced to census long-moved friends and neighbors for embarassing photographs and anecdotes. They\’ll just be able to hit up archive.org for the candidate\’s high-school myspace page wherein they\’ll have described their primary occupation as \”drinking\” and left a typo-ridden rant about how much that one teacher screwed them on that test.

    I joke, of course, but I absolutely believe this inadvertant transparency will hopefully close the gap between \”what I say\” and \”what I do\” when it comes to politicians, and perhaps make everyone just a little more tolerant of each other.

    Comment by Brendan -

  16. Your post reminded me of Gordon Bell\’s latest project \”MyLifeBits.\” Where Gordon Bell has amassed over 150 gigabytes of memory of everything related to his life (pictures, papers, telephone calls, search inquiries etc). My question, when will this not be an option? Will recording our every action infringe on our civil liberties or will it be the natural progression of social acceptance?
    Basically, will our open book lives make us think twice before picking our nose, searching for porn or stealing the neighbors hose? And if so, the phrase ignorance is bliss has lost its meaning.

    Comment by Noah -

  17. I understand what you\’re saying, Mark. I\’m a web developer by profession and I confirm what I know (or think I know) with a quick search engine query. Then I find myself wondering if I know anything at all because I keep looking things up via Google. 🙂

    Comment by Steven Rogers -

  18. Wondering about your thoughts on proactive online brand management. I blogged this recently here: http://communitygrouptherapy.com/2007/04/17/online-brand-management-good-bad-or-it-depends/.

    There is a company called Visible Tech doing work in this space. I descibe this not unlike the weapons manufacturer…the tools aren\’t inherently bad, but how they could be used brings great risk.

    Sean

    Comment by sean O\'Driscoll -

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